Do you celebrate summer fun? The change from winter to summer was celebrated with dancing around the Maypole. This tradition of Maypole dancing is a great way to celebrate the new season. is a joyous way to celebrate the start of spring with the Oak King and Ivy Queen.
History of Maypole dance:
Dancing around a Maypole is a jubilant celebration of new life and spring. Scholar Carl Wilhelm Von Sydow stated that Maypoles were built “simply” as “signs that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned.” The Maypole has been traced back to Greek and Roman times. The month of May is named after the Greek goddess Maia and the oldest recorded Maypole is accredited to the Roman Goddess Bona Dea, or Fauna. Flora the goddess of flowers was honored with the festival of Floralia, which is also accredited with celebrating with a Maypole.
Roman Maypole Mythology:
Separately, in Roman mythology there is a “story of Cybele, whose lover, Attis (Phrygian god of vegetation), was gored by a wild boar and bled to death under a pine tree. The distraught Cybele believed that the spirit of Attis had been transferred to the tree, so she had it cut down and brought back to Rome, where it was decorated with flowers and garlands. A period of mourning was then observed after which Attis’s spirit was resurrected and restored to Cybele, symbolizing the rebirth of all living things in the spring. “As a result of this tale, “a ‘sacred pine of Attis’ was taken in procession, or on a chariot, to the temple of Cybele (the Anatolian Mother Goddess of flowers and fruitfulness) and set up for veneration.”(1)
The first of May has been celebrated as the Crowning of the May Queen (or Ivy Queen), and her marriage to the Oak King. They would unite with a hand fasting, a tying to signify their union, & untying to signify their willingness to remain together, of a ribbon in a figure 8 about their wrists. This is where the term “Tying the knot” came from. They would then celebrate by dancing around the Maypole. Many May celebrations include the crowning of the May queen followed by dancing around a Maypole.
The Maypole has spiritual roots. It is associated with a celebration of the tree of life. The pole is said to represent the earth joining the air or sky in the ring. It has also been related to the tree as masculine energy, and the ribbons and the ring as feminine energy. In different cultures the ribbons have various colors and numbers of ribbons. The 7 colors of the rainbow can be used to coordinate to represent the Chakra system, crowned by the wreath representing the crown chakra. In numerology it is said to represent the number 10, the pole is 1 and the wreath and the dance ringing it is 0. Climbing the pole is also ascribed with ascending the spiritual path. The Maypole also is related to cones of energy; Pyramids, Tepees and Christmas trees also represent a cone of energy. Although there is no direct connection here it was mentioned often in the reading I did. These cones are also said to point our way to the next life, or heaven.
Catholic Maypole Celebrations:
Mary mother of Jesus is crowned on the first of May, same as the May Queen. This practice dates to the Middle Ages and was officially established in the 17th century. Various churches incorporated the Maypole in their May festivities. Villagers gathered around a “Summer Rod” at Holy Trinity Church in Exeter, United Kingdom in 1588. Geoffrey Chaucer, the English poet, even mentions an annual Maypole at St Andrew Undershaft. In 1955 Pope Pius XII dedicated May 1st to St Joseph the worker. Other sources suggest the tree represents St. Joseph, and the wreath the crowning of St. Mary, mother of Jesus.
Jessica in her blog A Shower of Roses talks about the “Maypole and our Beautiful Catholic Faith.” She describes how she used it for a Pentecost celebration. Her version includes ascribing the aspects of faith to the colors of the ribbons, and the weaving of the ribbons as tying our faith together into something beautiful.
A 1660 quote from Robert Herrick, The Maypole:
“The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I’ll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown’d it”
Maypole Comes to America
When settlers came to America in 1627 Thomas Morton set up a Maypole and danced with the village maidens, creating a stir. Today, many American groups dance the Maypole dance to acknowledge the renewal of nature in Spring. It is traditionally danced on or around the first of May, the summer solstice, or even the end of summer.
The Maypole influences the Liberty Pole:
The Liberty pole is very similar to the Maypole. It is a tree or lance topped with a Phrygian cap, or Liberty cap. The symbol began after Caeser was killed by “Liberators” in 44 BCE, who paraded through town with a Pileaus cap, (known as a freed slave cap) on the tip of their weapons, representing freedom from oppression. And, in Europe in 1750, a monument on Sir George Bowes set up a bronze female figure wearing a cap of liberty on a pole. During the stamp act of 1756 until its repeal in 1766, the Sons of Liberty to erected liberty poles as a signal to meet and discuss defiance to oppression in America. These morphed into Liberty Trees, and the first was in Boston 1765. Liberty trees then spread to France in 1790, where they planted young trees as a symbol of the French revolution. In 1792 the Liberty Tree was officially adopted as the symbol of national freedom, revolution, and an everlasting Republic in America.
Workers Maypole becomes Labor Day:
The Maypole even influenced Labor Day worldwide. In 1894 Walter Crane declared the Worker’s Maypole to represent the cause of the employer’s liability, eight-hour workdays, and the feeding of children. It represented the demands of the international labor movement. In 1886, May 1st in the US and Canada declared that workers hours should be shortened to 9 hr. day. This was ignored by employers, so workers went on strike May 1st. The Haymaker riot in Chicago, Il. This lead to the declaration that May 1, 1890, would be Labor Day, or international workers day, to bring attention to beneficial working conditions. Because of the association with the Haymaker riot, U.S. President Grover Cleaveland picked the first weekend of September to celebrate Labor Day. Now, Canada and the United States of America celebrate Labor Day at the end of summer. That is how the Maypole came to be danced at the end of summer for Labor Day. Over time the Maypole has become a fun activity to celebrate. Enjoy this Maypole how to with the Oak King and Ivy Queen.
How to dance around a Maypole with the Oak King & Ivy Queen:
Easy Maypole Weave.
Gather around the maypole and alternate gentlemen and women or count off 1,2 around the pole. 1’s travel to the right passing outside then inside the 2’s. 2’s travel to the left passing inside then outside of the 1’s. Continue until the ribbon is completely woven around the pole and tied off with a bow.
All the way to Galaway Level 1 maypole dance.
Gather around the maypole and alternate gentlemen and women or count off 1,2 around the pole.
First Section 16 counts: 1’s proceed forward to pole 8 counts, then 8 counts retreat backward to starting position.
Second 16 counts: 2’s proceed forward to the pole 8 counts, then 8 counts retreat backward to starting position.
Third Section 8 counts: Everyone takes 8 steps on the beat to the left.
Fourth Section 8 counts: Everyone takes 8 steps on the beat to the left.
Galway royalty free music. Normally danced to the song “All the way to Galway.”
We returned to the historic Arapahoe Spring now in summer. It was completed in 1936 as a picnic area and water resource for car radiators on the way to Bergen peak west of Evergreen Colorado. It I now on a Colorado jeep road once Squaw Pass Road was moved.
Ivy Queen – Holly Tomazin
Oak King – Craig tomazin
Captain Mud beard- Key Wyble
Celtic Captain – Troy Brasch
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